Before I learned to appreciate the raw seafood in Japanese cuisine, I was smitten with tonkatsu and that was what I’d order in just about every Japanese restaurant that I went to. Tonkatsu is deep-fried breaded pork (“ton”) cutlets (“katsu”) accompanied by a dark sweet sauce. Chicken katsu is a variation and it is said to be more popular in Hawaii than in Japan.
To make tonkatsu, or chicken katsu, and a good-quality sauce, you will need four traditional Japanese ingredients — panko, mirin, sake and rice vinegar. Fortunately for the home cook, these are widely available in better supermarkets. They are a little pricey and it might seem too extravagant to buy them just to make a single dish but if you want to cook Japanese dishes on a regular basis, trust me, these items are indispensable.
Once you’ve assembled all these ingredients, you can make chicken katsu.
But what about the tonkatsu sauce? Yes, you really should make the sauce before cooking the chicken so that by the time the chicken is done, the tonkatsu sauce has cooled and thickened and ready to be poured over the chicken katsu.
- 1/8 cup mirin
- 1/8 cup sake
- 1/8 cup vinegar
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce or to taste
- 1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
Into a pan, pour the mirin, sake and rice vinegar. Add half a cup of dark brown sugar.
Boil until syrupy but not too thick. The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools so don’t wait until it is very thick before turning off the heat.
Off the heat, stir in the soy sauce and grated ginger.
Now that that tonkatsu sauce is done, it’s time to cook chicken katsu.
- Take a large piece of cling wrap. Place a chicken on one side and fold over the other half. If you have a very large of cling wrap, you can place more chicken pieces.
- Pound the chicken until the meat is half an inch to three-quarters inch in thickness. It is important for the thickness to be uniform for even cooking. And the chicken meat shouldn’t be too thick to avoid a raw center and a burnt coating.
- Lay the chicken pieces flat and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Place the flour, beaten egg and panko in three shallow bowls.
- Dredge each chicken thigh in flour; shake off the excess.
- Dip each floured chicken thigh in the beaten egg, making sure that every inch of the surface is coated with egg.
- Roll each chicken thigh in panko. Make sure that the panko coating is even.
- Heat enough cooking oil so that it is at least two inches deep. The ideal frying temperature is 145F to avoid burnt breading and raw meat.
- If the chicken fillets are not completely submerged in oil, check the underside after about three minutes. When the underside is golden brown, flip the chicken thighs over to brown the opposite side.
Cut the chicken katsu into bite-size pieces. Arrange over rice. Spoon over some of the sauce. Serve with vegetables on the side. Sprinkle with finely sliced scallions for garnish.